Saturday, October 6, 2018


I find myself starting Iron Fist again and I don't know why. Season one was awful and from the first few scenes of this season, it is not clear that Marvel learned their lesson. How do I know this? Well there's a yin/yang sign on a shipping truck and all I can think is, “this is what you thought of? This is what you want me to get from Iron Fist?” and then I started laughing because of course this is how Iron Fist would open, with a ham-fisted attempt to wallop us with attempts at “relevant” symbolism...

But why? Why am I still watching? Well, I can't quit Iron Fist because it leaves me with so many questions and the feeling that Marvel is in fact, trying to phone it in. There's just too much work going into making martial arts, dragons, and magic boring and I am obsessed with all the ways it could be better. My notes on the episodes are full of unanswered questions regarding design, imagery, acting, writing, casting, and basically every part of the show that it makes me wonder where they put the money to make it. It’s my Pepe Silvia.

Specifically, most of these phone-it-ins have to do with character motivation throughout the series. While Sacha Dhawan (Davos) and Jessica Stroup (Joy Meachum) do great jobs with what is written, I wonder about the directors asking them "what's your character's motivation" and them looking at each other with blank stares because the writing gives no cues. No matter how many times Joy says "You kept my father from me" or Davos says "There's a cancer in this city" I don't see how their actions follow. Why does Davos care about crime in New York? He has no tie to the city or any nation state, having grown up in K’un L’un, so why start there? If he really cared he should be punching senators in Washington, DC or going to the sources of crime not beating up or murdering petty criminals. Joy's motivation feels more warranted, the idea that her dead father was hidden from her by Ward. She and Ward have some great conversations about it (they're well acted in spite of the writing in most cases) but the actions feel disproportionate. Why would Joy have Danny kneecapped rather than go to therapy when she never had an inclination towards trademark villain behaviors? Therapy is cheaper (even Ward’s trying it) and would give her more resolution in the long run. The best I can say is at least they made Joy less forgettable than last season.

The one shining beacon in this season has been Misty Knight, riding in on a gallant steed of reasonable questions, solid acting, and good chemistry. Misty's great with all the characters, even having some chemistry with a more memorable Ward Meachum, and they teased us with a Daughters of the Dragon duo. While that possibility is fantastic, I’m not sure how I feel about Jessica Henwick’s Colleen. I can’t tell if its her acting or the writing but her character's actions feel haphazard and Nearing the end of the season Colleen acts resigned but with no preceding steps towards that feeling. This "off" feeling particularly comes through in the fight scenes where in one, Colleen seems to have forgotten all her empty hand techniques and in the next, she's creaming three enemies at once. These made it hard to feel that Misty and Colleen could actually be good partners. One is a well-written clearly compiled character with defined skills, the other is a mish-mash roller coaster of character choices and it’s unclear what she’s actually capable of and not in a good way.

Overall, Season 2 is better, but to say that is like saying it only forgot to add 4 of the ingredients instead of 5 for the dish that is Iron Fist. The bar was so low that yes, they raised it, but it's not a bar I'd be proud of getting over. There are a lot of ideas in the series but if we have a season three I hope they take a step back to think about what they've done. Marvel's delivered us a horribly bland white savior character, centered a bunch of white folks, and then doubled down on it. What sort of message does that send and is that what they want to send, especially now? In a year like this one, with Crazy Rich Asians killing it at the box office and Asian Marvel characters like Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) stealing the show in Ant-man and The Wasp, why continue a mediocre trajectory?

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Mixed-Race Creators, some recommendations

It's been a while and thank you for patiently waiting for the return of these blogs. Awesome and rewarding things have happened since I last posted a blog here (I recently got two articles published over on Women Write About Comics) and to start off the New Year (yes I know it's the beginning of April and past Lunar New Year as well) I'm going to toss out some creator recommendations.

Last year at GeekGirlCon, I moderated a panel on mixed-race characters in fiction. You can see the footage of it here and the tweet/photo above was from the awesome Lauren Bullock who attended the panel. I had a great group of people on the team and between that and the upcoming Alloy Anthology I thought it would be a great time to plug a few mixed race creators.

Tristan J. Tarwater

One of my favorite panelists of all time and an all around awesome person is Tristan. They has been on a bunch of panels with me and is a fantastic writer. They write Shamsee an ongoing webcomic and their book The Marauders' Island was the first physical book I finished reading in 2017 and is amazing. The book is a high seas family reunion in world where land and sea operate as one world and magic traditions are woven into the culture of each place. You can grab their books off of amazon and many local libraries (do a purchase request if you can't) and if you pick up her stuff don't forget to write a review. To find out more about her check out her website and follow her @backthatelfup on social media.

Marjorie Liu

A paranormal and comics writer, Marjorie Liu is fantastic. I really enjoyed her book The Iron Hunt, which was set in a paranormal-noir-modern-Seattle, and would love more audiobooks for her impressive oeuvre so that I could consume more of her work. She currently writes, Monstress for image and is specifically interested in talking about, and to, the experience of mixed-race people. While through allegory (which uses the biological definition of race as opposed to the social concept of race), it touches on the diversity of mixed-race people and the myriad ways we can or have “passed”. You can also buy her work on amazon or get them from many local libraries (do a purchase request if you can't) and if you pick up her stuff don't forget to write a review. You can check out her website for more information and follow her @marjoriemliu on social media.

Julie Fiveash

I met Julie at Indigenous Comic Con 2017 and her work is really cool. She blends the unsettling with the cute (I got a bunny sticker from her that says “Death Awaits”) and was great to talk to at the convention. She had a bunch of zines available (so if you catch her in person pick up a couple) and I grabbed “Why Can’t You-: A comic about multi-racial identity,” which is exactly what it sounds like in the best possible way. It blends 2-6 panel short comics into one plot and goes through the type of interactions that all multi-racial people have gone through. You can follow her work on tumblr, instagram and view her portfolio here.

Yoshi Yoshitani

I had the honor of having Yoshi on a panel with me at Rose City Comic Con to talk about Cultural Appropriation and she is an amazing artist. Her work covers all sorts of topics and what initially drew me to her work is a Tarot deck inspired by fairy tale stories from all over the world. She has an amazing and unique style and recently, she has decided to go full freelance (congratulations) and has worked on a bunch of awesome new covers for Star Trek, Monstress, and other comics. You can find out more about her on her website and buy her work here. To hear more about her upcoming projects and appearances follow her on social media @yoshisquared.

Kiku Hughes

Last but not least is Kiku who was also on the mixed-race creators panel at Geek Girl Con last year. Her ongoing webcomic the Sublimes is great and her graphic novel Displacement is going to be published by First Second in 2019. She also has the amazing honor of being the assistant editor to Der-Shing Helmer on the Alloy Anthology. Check out more of her work here and you can follow her on social media @geniusbeee

One of the best parts about looking for panelists for the mixed-race characters in fiction panel (and accidentally also my #ExpressiveAsians panel at Emerald City Comic Con) has been to see how large the multi/mixed/bi-racial creative community is. Many of us fall into the “ambiguous brown person” (a quote directly from Julie Fiveash's “Why Can’t You-: A comic about multi-racial identity”) category and no matter where we grew up there are some experiences that we all share. And if the works of these creators pique your interest, check them out and follow the the Alloy Anthology website to find out when the Kickstarter begins and to find out about more mixed-race creators.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

ConMunity Engagement: Indigenous Comic Con 2

Over the Veteran’s Day weekend the second Indigenous Comic Con took place here in New Mexico at the Isleta Resort and Casino on Isleta Pueblo. This awesome event was organized by the fantastic Lee Francis IV who has been doing superb work with the Indigenous comics community, founding Native Realities and the Red Planet comic book shop in Albuquerque.

What is Indigenous Comic con? Well it’s a con like GeekGirlCon or Blerd con, that is organized around particular community within comics rather than around a location like San Diego. In this case, it is centered on Indigenous creators and communities.

Although I am not Indigenous, the con is one of the most welcoming I've attended. I get to blend in as "an ambiguous brown person" (a quote from "Why can't you-" by Julie Fiveash one of the zines I bought) and listen to voices in comics/the greater nerd community that rarely get asked to speak. And if they do get asked to speak, it’s about diversity in the medium. It’s also a chance to put my money where my mouth is regarding diversity in comics, seeing and buying work by Indigenous people. Their work regularly blends nerd and Indigenous identities but also, like the zine I quoted, just uses of the medium to explore personal stories.

Seeing the amazing work that Indigenous creators produce is one of my favorite parts of the con and this year I bought a bunch of fun things. You check out the whole vendor and artist list here on their website but here's a list of some of the people I got a chance to buy stuff from:

Jeffrey Veregge: A great artist and writer who had shirts, comics, and prints available. I picked up his most recent Star Trek design on a black shirt

Weshoyot Alvitre: Another amazing comics artist whose work I had initially seen on Twitter. The first piece of hers that I saw was an amazing version of Dani Moonstar, which I bought the print of at ICC.

Lalo Alcaraz: Though primarily the cartoonist behind La Cucaracha, he recently consulted with Disney on Coco and had some awesome nerdy magnets, I grabbed a Star Wars one.

Kandi Quam: Is from Natachu INK and had some great small prints and art cards. I grabbed the cards but am torn between sending them to people and keeping them for myself.

Kurly Tlapoyawa: A former archaeology student of mine, who is now a full-fledged archaeologist and just started his own podcast, had book on Nawatl language influence in New Mexico and Southern Colorado that I picked up.

And last but not least were the artists I grabbed short zines from. These were: Tatum Bowie, Damon Begay, Julie Fiveash, and Willow Tomeo. They all had such cool stories to tell and it was great to hear all of their stories about getting to be at ICC.

You can support these artists (and the others from the vendors/artists lists) through their websites, patreons, or other ways to check out and buy their work to support them to do even more down the road.

After my extensive shopping adventures, I got to listen to a panel that on its own would have been worth the admission price. Entitled “Native Sci Fi and Indigenous Futurisms” the panel made me seriously consider a bunch of themes that I hope to credit them with inspiring and discuss at other panels or to see the panelists discuss in the future in other venues. The panelists were Daniel H. Wilson, PhD and sci-fi writer, Elizabeth LaPensee, PhD, artist and video game designer, and Johnnie Jae a writer and the founder of A Tribe Called Geek. The panel talked about everything from kinship to the apocalypse and demonstrated how many amazing things are happening in the Indigenous communities. I had a short live-tweet of the panel you can see here and if you ever get a chance to hear any of them speak I would recommend it. I was blown away by how much I didn't know and went to read more about Indigenous Futurisms, started listening to Wilson's Robopocalypse (finished this week and would 100% recommend), and went to check out the media being produced on a Tribe Called Geek. If you can't hear them speak I highly recommend looking into and supporting their content.

Even if you can't attend cons like ICC or Blerd con it's valuable to think of the other ways you can support such conventions. ICC has a program to sponsor the ticket of an Indigenous child and other cons use the Con or Bust service to reach out to underrepresented groups. These are important (as cons and as ways to support them) because often nerd communities are coded as white spaces and these cons demonstrate that the white nerd narrative is false and that there are many ways to be a nerd. My hope is that mainstream conventions start to take notice and invite more diverse creators to their own conventions. Specifically, I hope that they bring in more Indigenous voices because I was awe-inspired at this convention. In the meantime, talk up ICC, hope for ICC 3, and if there is and you are near New Mexico attend and support some IndigeNerds!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

ConMunity Engagement: Bringing science to the con

Science outreach is an important part of all cons, whether convention or a conference. There should be different goals at each but both should have it represented somewhere. Outreach is a common part of science and in many cases there are ‘tried and true’ methods for outreach, such as the public lecture or the museum demonstration day. Unfortunately, these events involve the same thing as teaching a class, with the academic deciding the agenda and the pupils, or public, looking at them in awe. With the plethora of platforms for scientists to take advantage of now and the attacks on science at the Federal level, these are not enough for sciences to stay engaged with the public.

Therefore, I encourage scientific conferences, or meetings, to have outreach as an regular,n ongoing, topic of discussion. At professional meetings, I suggest scientists discuss new methods for outreach, what ideas or topics should be the focus of outreach, and identify the importance and/or value of outreach to the academic and to the field. These are important to explore amongst other academics because it allows whole disciplines to consider what aspects are the most important to convey to the public. It also allows us to explore the pros and cons of different outreach methods as well as tailor certain platforms to particular types of outreach.

I’m pursuing this through a forum I organized that will be held at the Society for American Archaeology meetings in April. Another group that is doing something is the newly established and first #AnthropologyCon that will happen at the American Anthropological Association meeting this year. Forums and events like these provide platforms to explore innovative methods for other academics to figure out what methods will work for them and their work. These interactions between academics also allow us to create networks of professionals that, after the conference or meeting, will be able to help navigate bumps down the road with particular methods and help to provide a group to workshop ideas with at a distance.

Of course, the goal of meetings, forums, and events such as those mentioned previously would be to do the actual outreach. One place that I highly recommend doing this is at conventions, comics or just “geek” ones in general. These are places where you can have panels of scientists or scientists and creators open to the public; hands on activities relating to your science (or the rest of the TEAM); and demonstrate new teaching materials like board games or other outreach platforms like video game visualizations.

This is something I have already started doing. While anthropology makes this pretty easy, because conventions are cultural events, blending the expertise of creators and scientists of all types hold great potential for outreach. At comics or science fiction conventions, panels can be organized by anyone and can include scientists, creators, critics, and anyone else who is interested in putting people together to talk about a topic. Conventions represent a unique place to bring scientific topics to a willing audience and we can do our best academic public outreach by involving a wide range of stakeholders. Additionally, almost all panels have a dedicated time set up for questions and answers so dialogue with the public is more open, rather than just having one person lecture. While the topic is often up to the organizer, that person is not always the scientist and panels allow for more discourse to flow between the panelists who may be from different backgrounds.

It is important to have dialogue about science outreach at both conventions and conferences because often as academics and as professionals we’re put on pedestals. Primarily, our work happens “under the hood” or behind a curtain because of academic publishing paywalls. So, unless people enroll in college classes or buy much to expensive access to academic databases, the dissemination of scientific knowledge is rather limited. Conventions allow us to go beyond the classroom to bring our knowledge to a wider audience because it brings us to the public and puts them, to a degree, in control over what gets discussed. It is important also for us to develop better teaching methods to cater to new generations and take advantage of many ways of learning and as temporary events, they allow us to see if certain methods work and which ones don't.

Lastly, it’s important in these discussions to be aware of the representation that your group is portraying. This means remembering diversity in regards to age, gender, race, and regional knowledge when organizing forums, meetings, or panels. This is because when it comes to outreach at public events that those we are trying to inspire physically see themselves represented. For example, it may be hard to convince the public that you are “de-colonizing” an issue if all of your presenters come from colonizing backgrounds or on cultural appropriation if a majority of you participants are white. Keeping this in mind will help to promote diversity in whatever field is being discussed and help make sense more accessible to all.